Why U-Penn?

by Alec Harris

Considering both the specific undergraduate school or program to which you are applying and the broader University of Pennsylvania community, what academic, research, and/or extracurricular paths do you see yourself exploring at Penn?

You have heard of cancer and AIDS, but what about poor file management? Every year 96,000 Americans die due to poor file management of medical records. With two business partners, I decided to dive into this critical national public health problem. My two partners, high school students like me, address this problem by creating a company that unites hospitals through a “Cloud System.” Doctors would be able to enter the “Cloud” and open up their patients’ documents. By utilizing their patients’ health information, doctors could safely determine the right medications to prescribe. We meet weekly to work on the product and search for investors.

I look forward to marrying my passion for problem solving and entrepreneurship with the strong liberal arts foundation at the University of Pennsylvania. I have purposefully chosen to major in economics in the College of Arts and Science because it will provide the intellectual underpinning to complement my diverse interests as an aspiring entrepreneur. I also appreciate the opportunity to start clubs at the University of Pennsylvania, as I would start an organization that focuses on entrepreneurship for liberal arts majors.

I owe my initial curiosity to take on problems, like poor file management, to my participation in LEAD’s Engineering and business programs over the past two summers at Villanova and Duke. The LEAD teachers challenged me with intriguing and difficult problems to assess. Through the lectures and assignments, I gained a passion for finding the solutions to many problems that we discussed. For example, we were told to find the cause of a specific short-circuited car. After many hours of research, I found the transistors, under the hood, worked as gates by controlling the amount of electricity used. When the transistor breaks down, a car can be short-circuited. We studied how such a complex network operates and evaluated new ideas for the purpose of efficiency, which inspired my thirst for more answers.

Student life at Penn would offer the opportunity to explore my other interests in social problems. In my days of playing baseball in the Harlem Little League, I met many kids who had a mutual love for baseball, but I was keenly aware of our different social situations. Many of them ended up in gangs and jail. They were sons of alcoholic fathers or grew up around gang violence. The decisions they made were inevitably a reflection of what surrounded them.  I want to join students organizations that tackle those kinds of problems.

Whether it’s the book Freakonomics or my observations of my friends, I always find myself analyzing the different angles in search for hidden answers to problems, whether they are math or engineering or social problems like those that can impair the lives of inner city teenagers. At U-Penn, I would enter a world that would give me the artillery to continue the search for solutions to problems that had not been answered.

Alec Harris is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania and a 2012 graduate of Pomfret.